The Daily: The Rise of Nationalism Across the Globe
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(00:02:45) HANNAH KAYE: Good evening, everybody, and thank you all so much for joining us this evening. My name is Hannah Kaye and I'm the executive producer at Intelligenced Squared. Tonight we are so thrilled to be hosting the Daily podcast on our stage. As you all know, The Daily is the New York Times flagship audio show; it's one of the most popular podcasts in the world, with nearly 2 million downloads every day.
(00:03:10) Now, Intelligence Squared are also very excited to announce today, our new media partnership with the New York Times; fantastic news for us, especially as the New York Times is one of the most respected news organisations in the world. We're going to be launching a new series of events with them called Intelligent Times. We're going to be featuring some of the New York Times's most prominent journalists and editors, including the Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, Maureen Dowd, the executive editor Dean Baquet , and the team from another of the organisation's incredibly successful podcasts, Still Processing. We're going to be launching these events over the coming months, so look out for our forthcoming mailers; and if you don't already receive them, you can sign up on our website at intelligencesquared.com.
(00:04:03) Now, in a moment we're going to be joined by the host of The Daily, Michael Barbaro and the executive producer Theo Balcomb , but before we start, we're just going to play you a short audio clip.
(00:04:38) So now, would you give a very warm welcome to Michael Barbaro and Theo Balcomb ? Thank you very much.
(00:06:19) MICHAEL BARBARO: I'm just going to stand and observe this incredible crowd, wow. We were joking about how you could dance to the end of The Daily theme music, and there really isn't any logical way to do it.
(00:07:17) THEO BALCOMB: No, it'd be very fun if there was a flash mob that suddenly developed around the theme.
(00:07:22) MICHAEL BARBARO: Hello, London. Thank you so much.
(00:07:26) THEO BALCOMB: We are here for our first international event, and we are thrilled.
(00:07:33) MICHAEL BARBARO: We are completely thrilled; and what you just heard is a classic week in the life of The Daily. It is baffling, it is relentless and it is disrupted by Donald Trump. That's the story of our lives for the past two years. I am Michael Barbaro, I'm the host of The Daily.
(00:07:53) THEO BALCOMB: and I'm Theo Balcomb, and I'm the executive producer of the show.
(00:07:55) MICHAEL BARBARO: Theo was the first employee of The Daily. When you hear those credits, you've heard her name from day one. She makes this thing you love.
(00:08:04) THEO BALCOMB: I’m very tired.
(00:08:05) MICHAEL BARBARO: Thank You, Theo.
(00:08:06) THEO BALCOMB: And as I said, we're here for the first time. Finally, Michael and I got to get out of the studio.
(00:08:11) MICHAEL BARBARO: Leave the cage.
(00:08:13) THEO BALCOMB: We never had any idea when we started the show that there would even be this many people listening to what we made; so the fact that you do listen and you're all here it is-
(00:08:25) MICHAEL BARBARO: Extraordinary.
(00:08:26) THEO BALCOMB: really exciting. So we wanted to tonight talk a little bit about why we're here, making this our first international trip.
(00:08:34) MICHAEL BARBARO: Yes, and that is because of the tremendous mess you've made of Europe.
(LAUGHS) We knew we wanted to come and tell the story of the EU in this moment; and we've been wanting frankly to tell that story for some time, but we finally had the bandwidth to do it. And that's what we're going to be talking about tonight - we're going to talk about the state of the EU, populism and nationalism in the European Union - but before we get to that, we want to spend a little bit of time talking to you all about the story of The Daily. Where we have come from and what we are, and why we are.
(00:09:10) THEO BALCOMB: Because I think, if you guys found out where we came from, you would be shocked. So we started the show with three producers. I came from National Public Radio; a woman named Lisa Tobin , who's the head of our audio team; and then another producer, Andy Mills from Radio Lab - a show at WNYC, if you're familiar with that - we were the three producers that started the show; and then we had a host who knew nothing about audio.
(00:09:40) MICHAEL BARBARO: Nothing, nothing with audio; and I wanna talk about that. But first I want to show you what it looked when the four of us started making The Daily.
(00:09:49) THEO BALCOMB: So we were literally in a storage closet; this is the kind of spaced The New York Times gave us.
(00:09:56) MICHAEL BARBARO: Now they say they're really proud of The Daily, it’s the flagship audio show, but this is how they treated us at the beginning. We had a utility closet on the 16th floor of The Times, that had previously been used for rubbish; and also had been used for a computer that contained all the leaked documents from WikiLeaks, that had no internet connection. It was like a bunker; if you can see, there's some foam walling around, and this is where we spent 24 hours a day creating the show. And Theo wasn't joking when she said that I knew nothing about audio. I had been a print reporter at The Times for a decade, and I had not so much as listened to… Maybe I'd listen to one or two podcasts, when you all asked me to host The Daily.
(00:10:43) THEO BALCOMB: Inspired a lot of confidence.
(00:10:44) MICHAEL BARBARO: Right, and so the question was, “What do we do with this guy?” He has a lot of relationships around the newsroom, he can help us land interviews; I think the big question Mark, was kind of what I would sound like
(00:10:57) THEO BALCOMB: Right. So Michael would go into an interview in the early days, and he would ask a good question; and then the guest might say something and it might be kind of funny, or it might be kind of heartwarming, or it might be kind of interesting. And a typical person if you're having a conversation, would sort of react, right? Michael would just sit, there, say nothing. So the initial notes were, “You know, if something's funny, Michael, you could go ahead and laugh. That would be a good idea.”
(00:11:23) MICHAEL BARBARO: “That'd be a great idea.” It turns out if you don't laugh in audio, then the audience doesn't know that they're supposed to laugh; and so ‘Lau-ha-ha-haugh’, and then you’ll laugh.
(00:11:32) THEO BALCOMB: Great, and that's also how we got to- people comment all the time if they're diehard listeners of the show - maybe some of you experience this - the ‘Hmm’ from our fair host. That all came about because we were like ‘You need to be in the conversation; you need to be responding.’
(00:11:53) MICHAEL BARBARO: Hmm.
(LAUGHS) And that was the sort of real thing I did as a print reporter, but it suddenly translated to audio; but what didn't translate was the sudden need at the beginning of the show and at the end of the show, to actually recite words that were written on a page at the beginning of the show. And I really, really struggled with that; because there was this kind of intangible sense I wasn't doing it right, and we're going to show you what that sounds like.
(00:12:35) MICHAEL BARBARO: I still think the first one was fine.
(00:12:57) THEO BALCOMB: I have to say as a producer on the show, that was also cut down; we edited that down a great deal.
(00:13:05) MICHAEL BARBARO: For the record, I just want to say I really do think the first Wednesday was fine.
(LAUGHS) The other thing you should know about the daily is that - besides our host, who had no idea what he was doing at the beginning - we had a show without an identity; and it took us about a month to figure out we wanted to call the show.
(00:13:27) THEO BALCOMB: It was really hard to find a name.
(00:13:29) MICHAEL BARBARO: Names are hard.
(00:13:30) THEO BALCOMB: Names are really hard.
(00:13:31) MICHAEL BARBARO: Everybody thinks they have a great idea for how to name a podcast, and it always begins with ‘The’. And so we sat in the room, we came up with a lot of ‘the’s; The Story, The Briefing, The Lead. The Lead was, unfortunately, a CNN show, so we cancelled that; then we settled on the name of the show that we absolutely loved. We even came up with iconography for it, and I want to show you that.
(00:14:00) THEO BALCOMB: For whatever reason, we were in love with this bird.
(00:14:03) MICHAEL BARBARO: The bird. So first off, it was going to be a huge hit; and first off, it was going to wake you up in the morning with a chirping bird in your head.
(00:14:13) And this yellow bird became so beloved on The Daily - we shared this with people all over the company, and they got excited about it - and then the last minute, the executive producer of New York Times audio; she just woke up with this epiphany that this was all wrong, and the show needed to be called what we called it internally - as a prototype, as a pilot - just The Daily; the thing we make every day. And when she made that decision she said, ‘Well, we're going to take the bird with us.’ And the marketing people said “If the name dies, the bird dies.”
So the bird died, and we had a huge fight with them; and so instead, you now know what we have. We have the gradient, the sunrise, the gay pride flag…
(00:14:59) THEO BALCOMB: All in there.
(00:15:01) MICHAEL BARBARO: Whatever you need it to be.
(00:15:02) THEO BALCOMB: We went through lots of iterations of what we were going to call it, how Michael was going to say the date; there's so many things that you have to figure out. And at that time, the idea that the New York Times was going to make an audio show was just a very bizarre concept; ‘What is this newspaper doing getting into podcasts?’ So we had a lot of thoughts about what that actually might mean; what is the show actually going to sound at the end of the day? Should it be more formal? After all, this is ‘All The News That's Fit To Print’.
(00:15:35) MICHAEL BARBARO: This is the August New York Times; we'd be delivering the news in audio the way we deliver it in print, with all this kind of authority.
(00:15:43) THEO BALCOMB: Or did we want it to be more informal? We got a test of this very early on if you listen to this next clip we're going to play, which is from the very first episode of the show.
(00:15:55) MICHAEL BARBARO: Day One.
(00:16:04) MICHAEL BARBARO: So David Greene - if the name doesn't ring a bell to you, because you don't live the United States - he's the founder of Hobby Lobby, which is at the centre of a major United States Supreme Court case over contraception; and whether or not companies can opt out of the United States’ Affordable Care Act's mandate around providing contraception, in particular the morning-after pill. And he wanted to come talk to us about Donald Trump's choice for their Supreme Court nominee, which was being announced the next day.
(00:16:40) THEO BALCOMB: Because if you remember, there was a sort of crazy night where the president was going to announce one justice that he was going to nominate to the Supreme Court. But he had set it up in a sort of ‘The Bachelor’-style; so he had two different nominees and he was going to pick one. So he ends up giving the rose to Neil Gorsuch. And David Greene is a big fan of Neil Gorsuch, because Neil Gorsuch endorsed his decision not to provide this contraceptive.
(00:17:08) THEO BALCOMB: So we call him up, and the conversation got pretty heated.
(00:17:27) MICHAEL BARBARO: So this moment…
(LAUGHS) It was kind of intuitive; but the reality is as a print reporter, you would never run that. You don't run people sticking their middle finger up at you; you don't say in the story that ‘David Greene - who told us he didn't trust us - said quote’. You just don't do that.
(00:17:58) THEO BALCOMB: Even in a radio interview, that would be that one of the first things to go: ‘You're questioning our authority, you're sticking your middle finger in our face.’
(00:18:07) MICHAEL BARBARO: You’re being provocative. And instead, we made a decision as a group - remember, this is Day One, so we don't really yet know what the show is - that we were going to keep this in the episode; and it very quickly became a kind of manifesto. Here was a guest who told us on Day One that he didn't trust us to tell his story; and we trusted the listener to hear that, absorb it, and make a decision about whether or not we'd given him a fair shot. And I think because we had just come out of the 2016 election in the US - and because a lot of our confidence in ourselves had been shaken by that election - we were, if we were being honest, in a period of reckoning around what we had done right and what we had done wrong in that election. We felt that moments like this were a kind of corrective to that; that if we let people challenge us and if we were transparent with our listener - and we let you see into our process, and understand how we make decisions - then you would trust us more.
(00:19:03) THEO BALCOMB: So this became a real model for us as we went on, to let you all into the reporting process; to understand what happens when we call sources, to understand what happens when we call reporters, and how they get the stories that they get.
(00:19:18) That was Day, one, there were many more days after that; and one of the next moments that felt important to us was when the New York Times, as it does, had a giant scoop, a breaking story.
(00:19:34) MICHAEL BARBARO: This was around, of course, Trump and Russia. What happened was that the president had fired his FBI director, and that part everyone understood. Our colleague Mike Schmidt had broken the story that before that had happened, the president had invited the FBI director to dinner, and requested his loyalty over dinner; and, of course, didn't quite get it.
(00:20:01) THEO BALCOMB: And we had to understand what this story was; it was the most important thing going. We needed to talk to Schmidt, because he was the person who knew what had happened; he was the only one. So we said “Okay, Mike. Can we get you on the show?”; and it got a little complicated.
(00:20:37) MICHAEL BARBARO: So Mike could only talk to us from the
(UNCLEAR) ‘Kinko’s’ in Middle Of Nowhere… I don't know.
(00:20:56) MICHAEL BARBARO: Chicago. He wouldn't let us say it first, because he was on a super-secret reporting trip; but it was moments like this that, as Theo says, you would immediately cut from your work at National Public Radio. Also, you once joked that you would never have aired that interview.
(00:21:12) THEO BALCOMB: No, it's a terrible phone line. Can you imagine hearing that on the BBC, an actual reputable broadcast? Nobody would air that.
(00:21:19) MICHAEL BARBARO: But we liked being disreputable; and letting you meet a reporter like Mike exactly as he is. He is such a character right, this kind of swaggering reporter - he doesn't quite have a gun slung to his side, but when you listen to The Daily enough, you imagine a pen is holstered to his side - and this episode was a breakthrough for us, because it was such a compelling story and it was told so compellingly from the middle of a Kinko’s.
(00:21:48) THEO BALCOMB: Right.
(00:21:49) MICHAEL BARBARO: Does anyone know what Kinko’s, is by the way?
(00:21:54) THEO BALCOMB: It’s like a coffee shop.
(00:21:55) MICHAEL BARBARO: Kinkos is a now-defunct brand name of a store where you would go in the United States, to make copies of things at a stage in our history.
(00:22:05) THEO BALCOMB: A Xerox machine; how deep do we need to go here?
(00:22:07) MICHAEL BARBARO: That doesn't exist anymore, but it did a couple years ago.
(00:22:10) THEO BALCOMB: Anyway; so we make this part of the story that we tell, and we ended the interview like this.
(00:22:17) THEO BALCOMB: And so now everybody is in love with Joshua.
(00:22:27) MICHAEL BARBARO: Except his bosses.
(00:22:32) THEO BALCOMB: He becomes part of the story along with us.
(00:22:37) MICHAEL BARBARO: From our understand, he did not get in trouble.
(00:22:38) THEO BALCOMB: No, I hope not.
(00:22:40) MICHAEL BARBARO: So today The Daily is not in that tiny room anymore. We have a set of studios, proper studios-
(00:22:50) THEO BALCOMB: We don't do bad phone lines anymore as much.
(00:22:53) MICHAEL BARBARO: We're on the third floor of The Times building with the rest of the newsroom; we have been integrated and shown the proper regard.
(00:23:01) THEO BALCOMB: And now we look like this.
(00:23:03) MICHAEL BARBARO: And now we look like this. We are a team of almost 20 people.
(00:23:10) THEO BALCOMB: Because of the size were able to do things like leave New York…
(00:23:17) MICHAEL BARBARO: Come to London, and make a very special series of stories, which we are going to tell you about in just a moment. So here to discuss what is about to be a remarkable and unusual run of coverage that we're going to do, are three people who have been intimately involved in thinking about Europe - thinking about you; thinking about this mess you've made and how it's going to get cleaned up - and that is our Berlin bureau chief, Katrin Bennhold - Hi! We're getting such formal greetings - We have our London correspondent has been covering Brexit, Ellen Barry ; and we have Daily producer extraordinaire, Clare Toeniskoetter . Theo was going to briefly leave us, but don't worry, she's going to come back.
(00:24:29) So thank you all for making time for us. Before we start this discussion, we are going to play a clip from this five days of Daily episodes that are going to start to air next week. I think you'll get a feel for what we're up to.
(00:26:18) MICHAEL BARBARO: It's almost Monday June 10.
(LAUGHS) I think that one sounded better, that one sounded fine. Our secret is out a little bit in that we do record episodes ahead of a time, sometimes. We like the era where everyone thought we made the show between midnight and 5:00 a.m; but that actually never existed, but don't tell anybody that.
(00:26:56) So Katrin, I want to start with you, because you have just finished this - I think it was nine days straight of reporting with Claire - as you guys tried to impossibly ambitiously figure out the story of what's happening in Europe right now. And in a way you embody Europe yourself, to an unexpected degree; I want you to talk a little bit about your background and how you fit into this.
(00:27:24) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Yes, I'm German originally, but I would say I feel European first; and I think in this country that probably makes me a citizen of nowhere, or I think Teresa May - what'd she call us, “queue jumpers”? That's mean - but seriously, Europe for me has always been kind of the story of my life. My own family is kind of a product of Europe,
So I was born in Germany. I ended up going to Britain to university because I could, because the EU allowed me to go to university anywhere in the EU, and it was actually for free at the time. And as a bonus, I actually met my future husband at university, he’s a Welshman; and our two grandfathers had fought on opposite sides of the war, and his grandfather was actually a prisoner of war in Germany. His grandmother reminded me of this quite a lot.
(00:28:18) MICHAEL BARBARO: How early on in the relationship?
(00:28:23) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Oh my God, this was the moment. First time I met my husband's grandmother, she had this thing with partners of her grandchildren; she had this categorization between ‘specials’ and ‘floozies’. I was still in the floozy stage, so this was important; we had lunch in her… She’s an officer’s widow in Kent, very posh; and I her in this house, the old rectory, and I was super nervous, more nervous than tonight. The first question she asked me when we sat down to lunch was like “Ojh, from you’re from Germany” - I can't do the accent - “So you're from Germany? My husband was a prisoner of war in (UNCLEAR), do you know (UNCLEAR)?”. So that’s that story.
(00:29:08) MICHAEL BARBARO: You did get married, though?
(00:29:10) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Yeah, it took a few more years; eventually I did become a special, but yes. We now have three children, my husband and I, and they are basically speaking out two languages; they feel equally at home in our two countries; they're basically little Europeans. So for my children, Europe is just a fact of life; and I remember trying to explain Brexit to my seven-year-old daughter a couple of years ago - we're still living in London; I was a correspondent here - and I sort of explained to her that there were some Brits who wanted to leave Europe. She looked at me in utter astonishment and said, “Where do they want to go, Africa?”
(00:29:46) MICHAEL BARBARO: And what did you respond?
(00:29:50) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I was sort of lost for words, but I found that it sort of summed up the absurdity of the situation for her in that moment brilliantly.
(00:29:58) MICHAEL BARBARO: I feel like the one thing that occurs to me as you tell your biography is that you're also German, so you understand something very profound about the roots of the EU, in this moment.
(00:30:10) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Yeah; the EU was basically born in this moment of… After this terrible war and after the Holocaust, in the 40s and 50s, people sort of stuck their heads together and decided this can't happen again. The early promise of the EU was peace and prosperity.
(00:30:30) MICHAEL BARBARO: Connectedness.
(00:30:31) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Yeah; this idea that we’ve got to just sort of suppress nationalism - this nationalism that has been feeling ethnic hatred and fuelling war, ultimately - and this was the idea to do it; to get so sort of collective and intertwined that war became unthinkable.
(00:30:48) So in a way today, seeing the reemergence of that nationalism was a reason for me to sort of say, ‘Look, we got to check in with people and see what Europe means to them today.’ What does it mean today? It used to mean this thing; and in some parts of Europe - particularly where I'm from in western Germany - this promise was pretty much kept. For Germany, the EU was rehabilitation and gave Germany a positive identity - and a massive export market on top of that, so what's not to like - but the idea was to go beyond that’ and go dig deeper into the countries where all this sort of nationalism is rising now, and just hear people's stories, hear what they have to say.
(00:31:32) MICHAEL BARBARO: And you get paired with two producers - one of whom is not here, Lynsea Garrison - one of whom is very much here, Clare Toeniskoetter . How did you guys start to logistically figure out something as complicated as telling the story of Europe in nine days?
(00:31:49) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Well, I knew that I wanted to talk to Katrin and just do a story on the AfT, the far right party in Germany. So for a couple years now I've been calling you every other month-
(00:32:01) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Stalking me on the phone.
(00:32:02) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: I know; I would go on our little computer system and I would find a story she's working on, call her saying “I see you have this interview: do you think you could make that into a Daily episode?” But nothing worked; and then finally we have a call, and you say “I’m about to go on this big trip; I'm about to go to five countries.”
(00:32:20) KATRIN BENNHOLD: And she's like, ‘Can I come?’ And I'm like, ‘Okay.’ She’s like, ‘Can I bring
(UNCLEAR) ‘Lindsay’ as well?’ I'm like, Okay.
(00:32:27) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Then I said, ‘How long are you planning this five-country trip for?’
(00:32:31) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I was like, five days.
(00:32:34) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: I said, ‘I don't think… We'll need a few more for audio’, and we settled on about nine.
(00:32:39) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I think you guys were like, ‘Can we do two to three weeks?’; and I'm like, ‘No, because the election is actually going to happen before then’. And they're like, ‘ Oh, okay.’
(00:32:48) MICHAEL BARBARO: Why is five days not enough for audio?
(00:32:51) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: So in audio, you really need to get to know characters. You need to just gather so much tape; we're rolling all the time recording from the minute we wake up.
(00:33:02) KATRIN BENNHOLD: So they're like, ‘Meet me at 4:00 a.m. At Tegel Airport and we'll start the trip.’ And they're like, ‘If you see us before you're through the security, don't talk to us; pretend you haven't seen us, because we have to actually record that first moment.’ I'm like, “What?” and she's like “Yeah, we're going to start rolling and recording you basically at 4:30 in the morning. Is that okay?” And I'm like, “What are you going to ask me?”, And they're oh, you know, “Why are we going to Strasburg first? What are you looking to find on this trip? What does nationalism mean?”
(00:33:31) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I'm like, “Holy Shit.”
(LAUGHS) I didn't tell this to them until the very last day. I was like, ‘You know what? I scripted the answers out to these questions at 11pm the night before. I was like, ‘What am I going to say at 4:00 in the morning to these…”, so I was learning this stuff by heart; but then I realised it's totally hopeless, because they roll 24/7.
(00:33:52) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: And one of the reasons we do is because we want these very natural moments. So these scripted answers actually didn’t sound that great and don’t get used, because she had memorised them; and what we want are just these human natural moments. I have one more funny story about that, first morning.
(00:34:09) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Oh, my god.
(00:34:10) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Lindsay & I woke up at 4 a.m. To go to the Berlin Airport - it's actually the first time I'm meeting Katrin in person - and we start recording from the moment our alarm clocks go off. Actually, we hit record before we even shut off our alarms, because we want those little moments. We want the alarm, we want the door closing and the taxi cab.
(00:34:31) MICHAEL BARBARO: Why do you want those so much?
(00:34:32) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: We want to show the motion; we want you to feel as you're listening, you're there with us, you're travelling from point A to point B.
(00:34:39) KATRIN BENNHOLD: You’re in bed with Claire as the alarm clock-
(00:34:42) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: You hear me brush my teeth and pack my suitcase. So Lindsay and I, we recorded every moment; we get to the airport, we're about to go through airport security. She turns to me and she says, ‘Do you think I should stop it or just roll through?’ I'm the more responsible, she's the more creative; and I was like, ‘Turn it off; you're get in trouble’. But of course, she's like m ’No, no, it'll be really good audio with the beeps if it successfully goes through.’ So she leaves it running; immediately the airport security man in Berlin picks it up. ‘Is this on? You need to delete this right now.’ She goes 'No, we've had two hours; we need these little moments, you’re going to ruin our audio documentary.’
(00:35:27) She charmed him, eventually; she went into a tiny room, and I immediately grabbed my bags and went away. It was like, ‘Don't delete my files too’; but she ended up getting to keep it and we can use those, all those moments, the moment that we met Katrin.
(00:35:39) MICHAEL BARBARO: And that is how The Daily was detained in Berlin.
(00:35:44) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: It was almost the end of the trip.
(00:35:46) MICHAEL BARBARO: So as you guys start - and you're rolling in bathrooms and bedrooms and all the rest, - what was the first stop and how did you envision the trip going?
(00:35:58) KATRIN BENNHOLD: So the idea was to start where Europe started. This is on the French-German border, these sort of arch enemies that had sort of been fighting for centuries; and it was interesting, because it was the one place where we still found unfettered idealism for the EU. A lot of people spoke to us about a United States of Europe; and I'm not just talking about professors and sort of educated types, but an electrician, a carpenter. Working-class people whose families had experienced in this region, which had changed between France and Germany, like, six times since the 17th century.
(00:36:35) I met this priest whose grandfather had fought for the French in World War One, and then his father fought for the Germans in World War Two. This is a crazy region - they'd sort of joke about keeping German street signs in the basement just in case
(LAUGHS) - but if you think of the EU as something - if you think of the foundation of the EU as the memory of war - we're sort of in trouble because that memory is fading right now; and this was the one place where that memory still felt very alive, and the EU was something very concrete. Because that border now that these people used to die over is basically non-existent; people live on one side of the border and go to work on the other.
(00:37:17) So that was our starting point, but we then pushed into France; because in France there's this yellow vest movement which has been making headlines, and has been challenging this young dynamic president - who only a couple of years ago, was supposed to be the saviour of France and of Europe - and is now really hated, we discovered. Yellow Vests Movement was one stop, and then we pushed into Italy because we felt that, while in France this movement was challenging the government, it was still just a leaderless chaotic movement. In Italy you have a situation where this nationalist hard right movement - the League of Matteo Salvini - is already in government; still just as a coalition partner, but it's rising fast and a lot of people think he will probably be the future Prime Minister.
(00:38:02) Moving on from Italy into Poland - which represents the largest country of the latest group of joiners after the Cold War - and here you have a nationalist government that has been in power since 2015, has had a majority and has had the power to really attack democratic institutions. So we wanted to see this arc, and basically see what happens as the far right and as nationalists gain power.
(00:38:27) MICHAEL BARBARO: You keep using this word nationalism, and as I prepared for this interview, I kept wondering what the difference is. Now I'm interested in what you think about this as well. What is the difference between nationalism, which we now talk about with lots of alarm, versus patriotism, which is something we talked about with reverence and affection and love for your country? And where do you see the line between the two, as you're starting this trip?
(00:38:57) KATRIN BENNHOLD: So I probably started out having a similar feeling, broadly speaking, about nationalism being something bad. I'm from Germany, and certainly as I grew up, I barely saw the German flag because it kind of was a taboo, and when I did see it, I thought, ‘That's probably a Nazi.’ It was really that.
(00:39:12) MICHAEL BARBARO: People didn't use it.
(00:39:14) KATRIN BENNHOLD: No, very, very rarely; and that's that changed and has gradually changed. Under Angela Merkel, because we hosted that wonderful Soccer World Cup in 2006, it was a moment; and so the sort of idea of civic patriotism has emerged and people are now able to use the flag again. That distinction speaks to me; but what I found on this trip is that actually, a lot of the nationalist movements have caught on to this. If you ask the AfD in Germany today or if you ask the League in Italy today, if they're nationalists they're like, ‘ No, we're Patriots, nationalism has a Negative connotation, we're Patriots.”
(00:39:52) So for me by now I would say the distinction ought to be between ethnic nationalism or patriotism, and civic nationalism or ethnic versus civic, because everything else is just terminology. What these people are doing actively - and they will say so - is ‘We Occupy language.’ They're claiming patriotism for themselves just as much as anyone, and so I feel the adjective is almost more important.
(00:40:22) MICHAEL BARBARO: What do you think? Where does the patriotism and the nationalism begin here?
(00:40:28) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: One thing that has been interesting looking at Brexit is how much Englishness is wrapped up in the Brexit project; it's not a British project.. And people who describe themselves as English rather than British are far more likely. - I think it's 80/85% more likely - to be supporting Brexit.
(00:40:50) So there is a sense of having lost something lost; identity or lost a claim on the Country, that that at one point was secure. So I think maybe it's a sense of loss, something having been taken from you.
(00:41:03) MICHAEL BARBARO: And as you travel to these four countries and you're identifying what the nationalist movements look, what are you finding about them? What is their fundamental animating force and how persuasive are they so?
(00:41:19) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I would say my first observation is that almost none of the people we spoke to in these movements actually want to leave the EU. That's just you guys - and I think you may have put them off, even the populists - but almost no one we spoke to was sort of happy with how the EU worked.
(00:41:37) One sort of distinction, if you want to - it's simplistic, but it's true to what we saw - is that we found that a lot of these people spoke about a fear of a Muslim invasion. This idea of Christian values suddenly has come very, very important, both in Italy and Poland; and we got a sense that there is almost sort of a battle of ideas unfolding in Europe right now, between two different visions of Europe-
(00:42:05) MICHAEL BARBARO: And what are the two visions?
(00:42:06) KATRIN BENNHOLD: One is sort of liberal democracy, and that's the one that has come under attack right now, because it very much is embodied by the EU and the EU institutions.
(00:42:15) MICHAEL BARBARO: And when we say liberal democracy, what exactly do we mean?
(00:42:18) KATRIN BENNHOLD: So liberal democracy is basically the idea of a pluralistic society. It's not just democracy, where a majority sort of makes decisions for everybody, but where minority rights are protected, where you have an independent judiciary, you have a sort of free and open society. And not so long ago, Western Europe and then Eastern Europe, as it signed up to these conditions in order to become member of EU, these values sort of reigned. But they've come into question, because they haven't been delivering to a lot of people. This is something that we found.
(00:42:53) This is us on the roundabout outside of
(UNCLEAR) in northern France, northwestern France. This is sort of one of the hold out roundabouts in this whole yellow vest movement. So we sort of arrived in- We try to arrange these interviews ahead of time with people, and actually they didn't want to talk to the press. They weren't interested, but we just sort of showed up; and it was a really interesting moment because you arrive at this, you can see it is a stormy day. It's this sort of muddy grassy knoll, on the corner of a big intersection, and you've got this - I don't know if you can see them - these big multinationals sort of all around. You got a IKEA, you got a Burger King on the other side. Here is this sort of blazing bonfire and a few plastic chairs sat around it with people in there bright yellow reflective, vests. Just sort of sitting there and basically trying to bring down this president, which is the basic thing that United them, but also saying ‘Democracy is not working for us’. A lot of the people we spoke to had never voted, had never bothered, or some of them had voted for Macron, but felt completely betrayed even a couple of years in.
(00:44:08) So I don't know if you agree here, but I my sense was that around this trip we sort of felt that Europe had become almost synonymous with these big abstract things: things like liberal democracy or austerity, or wage stagnation or migration in the case of Italy. So I felt a lot of resentment.
(00:44:30) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Certainly. I feel there's always this moment when you're out doing interviews about these movements, that it feels to me the Willy Loman moment in Death of a Salesman. A person who feels they're their birthright has somehow been slipped away from them; that what they thought they were going to get in the fullness of their adulthood has been taken. And that's the moment where they bang on the table, or that's the moment when they say something about who they are, and that that feeling is wrapped up in all these movements.
(00:45:00) MICHAEL BARBARO: Can you describe- go ahead.
(00:45:02) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Just because what I thought was interesting on that roundabout; you can't see it, but behind these chairs is this small wooden shed. It's a shed that a retired carpenter (UNCLEAR), who we interviewed at length on that roundabout - who's been there pretty much every day since November 17th, at least for a few hours every day. It's been built and rebuilt a couple of times, because I've been taken down by police in between; and this shed to me was fascinating, because it was this small 7 square metre shelter, that in a way, was a microcosm of the French way of life that they were trying to hold on to. There was a small bar in there with coffee, sack of potatoes, pétanque balls. There was a sofa, and there was so much camaraderie. About five minutes after this photo was taken, there was the mother of all downpours. It was raining and storming, there was lightning, and everybody sort of crowded into this tiny shelter.
(00:45:53) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Everyone ran in together, and actually they had gone out in the roundabout to give flyers to these cars - to garner support for the yellow vest movement, which is dying - and they're trying to-
(00:46:03) MICHAEL BARBARO: But why is the EU a threat to this Museum of French life, is I guess what I'm struggling to understand?
(00:46:10) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Why what, sorry?
(00:46:11) MICHAEL BARBARO: Why is the European Union a threat to this little encapsulation of Frenchness that you're seeing? What are they afraid of?
(00:46:20) KATRIN BENNHOLD: We asked them this question, and they basically said that Europe is synonymous with wage competition. The minute the Eastern European countries joined, they felt that their salary increases levelled off. They felt that they had to work harder, longer hours, more overtime, and not get paid for it, because there were subcontractors now - companies from Bulgaria or Poland - that would offer the work more cheaply to the big companies, that their own companies was trying to get contracts. They really sort of said that that period between 2004 and 2010 - and then, of course, the financial crisis made it all worse - they felt a sort of levelling off in their living standards, and a lot of them are struggling. We saw their paycheques and we saw what is left at the end of the month, and it's basically nothing; and this sort of humiliation of being an electrician in France, second generation - your father was an electrician before you, but in those days was able to buy a house when he was 30, and bring up a family in a semi middle-class way - here you are now in this generation; you can barely pay your rent; you have to ask your father for a loan when your boiler breaks; you have to tell your children in the middle of the month that there's not going to be enough money until the end of the month. You can never take your children to the cinema or to Paris.
(00:47:37) So in this context, this movement started growing, and these people were telling us about the sense of community and a family on these roundabouts. This guy Jeremy - whom I just described, this electrician - he basically said he'd never voted, he'd never been on a demonstration. This is mainly an apolitical movement; if some of them vote for Marie Le Pen, it's because they want Macron out, but he was basically saying the first time he showed up on the roundabout, he was sort of curious because it was happening in his city. And he saw all these people that he sort of vaguely knew, and then he met some others; and they discovered that they all had the same problems, and what a relief it was to find this community and to realise they're not the only ones.
(00:48:22) So to me that was insightful and also humbling; because, let's face it, we are all part of a very privileged elite and things like liberal democracy and Europe worked very nicely for us. But you realise, when you travel the lands in Europe today, that there are a lot of people who feel that liberal democracy is not working for them.
(00:48:45) MICHAEL BARBARO: What you're describing sounds very generational. I have an image in my head of older French, Polish, German, complaining of an era that's gone, of an identity that's been robbed; of a life that no longer exists. Am I wrong in assuming that?
(00:49:04) KATRIN BENNHOLD: So I went into the story with the same assumption; and it's not a bad assumption. If you look at Britain, if I'm not mistaken the younger people are more likely to be against Brexit and it's the older people who've been in favour of it; but I was quite shocked to find that along the way we met a lot of young people, who have either inherited or just simply embodied and embraced very xenophobic views, actually.
(00:49:34) One of the moments that stuck with me is meeting this father, an engineer in Italy in Tuscany, on this Market Square in (UNCLEAR). Somebody who votes on the centre-right; he happened to be there when we were there with this sort of League politician. But we started talking to him, and I sort of asked him a variation of your question and he said, “The young people, they really hate the migrants.” I was like, “What do you mean?”, and he said he was watching the television news with his sixteen-year-old daughter just a few days earlier. He said they were watching this report about a migrant ship that had capsized and a hundred migrants had died, and his daughter just gave the thumbs up. He said he was shocked by this, and she saw his shock and the sort of horror on his face and said “Dad, don't look so shocked, everybody thinks this.” And they sat down for a long conversation; him and his wife tried to talk to their daughter about human rights, about the difficulty some of these people have gone through and so on, and he said he believes that that conversation probably hasn't made a difference.
(00:50:43) The other small story in that context was when we were on the plane to Poland, and just by chance, ran into the school class from the Normandy beaches; it's D-day today. It was basically teenagers aged thirteen/fourteen and they were on an Erasmus programme. They now do these for high school students; in my days it was only university, but they were going on a one-week exchange to Poland. I was talking to the teacher who would organise this and asked him, “Why did you do this?” And he said there was this time around 2015/16, when the migrant crisis was sort of hot, that he started hearing his students refer to migrants as rats and other sort of vermin, basically; and that they were applauding the idea of Trump building a wall. And he sort of said in this region of France in particular, how's it possible that they do not think of their own history and of all of that, and of Europe and of- And he said, their grandparents are even too young to have experienced World War Two; and so they have no conception of history and these values. So he decided, having heard them talk like this, that he needed to get them into one of these exchange programmes.
(00:52:01) So who knows what comes out of it; but so answer your question, I feel that we cannot rely on the fact that this phenomenon will just die out with the older people. I feel like there's a young cohort that is very much in it.
(00:52:15) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: You could even see where it could start to grow. This yellow vest family that you talked about - that didn't have anti-migrant feelings, they're just apolitical; this father who is an electrician and his wife and his three kids - but the two parents would go roundabout, they said, just about every day. We went over and met the whole family and talked to their 14 year old, daughter, Luna; and she, when we asked her, ‘Do you feel European? You're 14. You've grown up with nothing but the European Union’, and she said, ‘What does it mean, European? I'm French’ And then later on in the conversation, we were asking her about her dreams, what she wants to do when she grows up; and she seemed she had this twinkle in her eyes, when she said that she really hoped to tour with animals, maybe to be a vet - she had a dog that was running around the entire time we were interviewing her - but then she paused and said, ‘But probably I'll just be an electrician like my dad’. So you could that there wasn’t…
(00:53:21) KATRIN BENNHOLD: But you what's interesting - just sort of coming off that story - France was very much sort of- nobody had anything good to say about the European Union flag. There seemed to be very little emotional tissue or whatever with the European Union; what was interesting then in Poland to us, that the European flag has actually become a symbol of resistance.
(00:53:47) MICHAEL BARBARO: Resistance to…
(00:53:49) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: The government in power; the
(00:53:52) KATRIN BENNHOLD: The pro-democracy movement in Poland - which is sort of pushing back against the attempts of the Nationalist government, to sort of undermine independent judiciary and to come down hard on the independent press - it's flying the European flag on the streets in protest marches. This editor of this liberal newspaper told us that when a nationalist lawmaker had referred to the European flag as a rag, he'd gone out and bought one and put it up outside his house. So it's very interesting, the sort of emotions that are elicited in different parts of Europe by this European idea.
(00:54:25) Of course, the other side - the nationalists in Poland - have a very different there. Their narrative is that Poland fought for independence and Poland toppled communism, and now these Western countries say they won the Cold War and are telling Poland what to do. For them, they're not going so far as to say, 'We want to leave the European Union’, but they're saying ‘We want to take the European Union out of Poland. We don't want interference’.
(00:54:53) MICHAEL BARBARO: I want to talk about what happens when the Nationalists get to power, and they have what seems a concrete demand from the people to do something like leave the EU - which is what's happened here - and it doesn't happen, it hasn't happened. So what does that tell us about these movements when, in a way they get what they say they want.
(00:55:19) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Well, Britain obviously doesn't have an Nationalist Party - and never has, notably - and in some ways this was an experiment, in a stable, well-organised system, taking on a populist project and trying to carry it out in a responsible way. Of course, what we have seen now is it's broken the system; I moved here a couple years ago, and I thought I had a good, reliable, theoretical framework for Britain - based on my extremely close reading of the works of Agatha Christie - and what I understood from that is that this was a small island where people knew how to not take up too much space, and live in relative comedy, which is punctuated by the occasional homicide; which is then resolved in an orderly fashion.
(00:56:15) Compared to America, where we to break the China, this is a country that has tended to resolve its existential differences in a more friendly way. So we had a scorched-earth, winner-take-all civil war that we've never gotten over, but the British conflicts have usually been solved with a (UNCLEAR); not a monarchy, not a republic, but some fudge in between the two. It’s not Catholic, it's not Protestant, but again something was found. So this is my thesis, and I loved my thesis. I loved it so much I put it in the paper; and my colleague Stephen Castle - who is better informed on all of these matters than myself - he was like, ‘Are you sure you want to put that in the paper?’ Anyway, I put it in the paper, and the thesis was called, “What could be more British than a compromise everyone hates?” So I think we all know how that turned out.
(00:57:23) MICHAEL BARBARO: Yes, we have an image that that indicates this from-
(00:57:27) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: This is biographical material, I didn't write this.
(00:57:36) MICHAEL BARBARO: That is not your handwriting. That would be your child.
(00:57:39) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: So I was confidently striding into the fray with my thesis - “What could be more British than a compromise everyone hates?” - and then the votes started. So I covered meaningful Vote One, meaningful Vote Two; and my daughter June who’s up in the audience, she was waiting for it to be over. And I had become invested in this idea that somehow people could be persuaded to give up their ideal outcome and find some common ground, just to get it over with.
(00:58:15) Obviously we all know that's not what happened; we have a situation of such paralysis, the example of how bonkers this is, is that last night, a viable candidate to succeed Theresa May proposed getting the Queen out of her palace, to put Parliament into recess for long enough to finish a No Deal Brexit. And when they're talking about getting the Queen out of her palace, something's definitely wrong.
(00:58:51) MICHAEL BARBARO: But did the Brexit vote in the end defuse the nationalism, in a way that maybe doesn't require the last step? Is that a possibility?
(00:59:04) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: No, I would say that it's been the opposite. When I go out and talk to people about this, they are no longer interested in whether Brexit is a good idea. They want to know why their vote is being ignored. So that is the issue that has completely replaced the question of whether Brexit is good for the country, and I think it's going to take years to get it out of the system.
(00:59:26) KATRIN BENNHOLD: This is very reminiscent actually of what we heard; I was France correspondent for ten years and was there when there was this referendum in France, on this European constitutional treaty in 2005. If you recall, the French voted no to that; then a couple of years later, some fudge was arranged and pretty much the heart and soul of that Treaty was put into this other treaty, that now wasn't put to a referendum and just passed anyways - the Lisbon Treaty. I sort of didn't pay much attention to it; this is ancient history as far I'm concerned. When we were there, the people on that roundabout were talking about that. They were talking about how their vote had been ignored; and when we were in Italy, people were like “Remember Monti during the financial crisis and then the debt crisis? Where basically, the European Union put pressure on Berlusconi to resign - the elected prime minister, whatever you think of him - and put in place basically a technocratic government for two years under Monti? Totally undemocratic; and basically raise taxes, lower spending, appease, financial markets.” Again, Italy was like “Democracy? What democracy?”
(01:00:38) So I felt it reminded me of Brexit; and much as you heard from my introduction - as much as I took Brexit personal in some ways when I was living here - much as I, inside of me thought, ‘Maybe a second referendum would be a good idea; maybe it will never happen’; actually by now I like feel it's hard to get away with not doing it after that vote.
(01:01:01) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: I also think people are beginning to want a different flavour of democracy. So in the system right now, you have a whole bunch of well-meaning officials who believe that they were elected to use their judgement, as they see fit; to protect the interests of the people. And then you have a whole different part of the government that believes that when the people make their wishes clear, even if you think it's a bad idea-
(01:01:30) MICHAEL BARBARO: You do it.
(01:01:31) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: You have to do it, even if it breaks the china. And these are two groups of, I think, well-meaning people, who are putting such strain on the system that it may change permanently.
(01:01:44) MICHAEL BARBARO: So what's the flavour of government we might get as a result of that?
(01:01:50) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: I think what you get is alienation. People who no longer- we've been going out and talking to people who are watching this play out, and the sense of disappointment in British democracy - and they use those words - if people don't believe that democracy works, they're going to accept something less. Or maybe they even want something more authoritarian.
(01:02:17) MICHAEL BARBARO: And by less, do we mean authoritarian?
(01:02:21) CLARE TOENISKOETTER: Yes, I think so. If they're promised a different system that will make them… If they're promised a different system that will fulfil their demands. Well, this brings us to the impossible question of the night, I think; which is if the EU is founded on the principle of liberal democracy as a fundamental good - and people are questioning whether that functions - what is the state of that institution in Europe, and therefore the idea of the European Union itself?
(01:02:57) MICHAEL BARBARO: Admittedly.
(01:02:58) KATRIN BENNHOLD: How long do I have? I think it's interesting; we all saw the European elections play out, and there's two interpretations of that result. There is one benign interpretation, which says that the wave of populists and nationalists getting into the European Parliament wasn't as bad as a lot of people had predicted and expected; and you could take sort of hope from the fact that in several countries - including Germany, the Greens, the pro-liberal and pro-refugee parties gained. But the other interpretation is that if you take the long view; having nationalists and populists sort of steadily gain ground and just get entrenched in the system, rising from 20 - 24% or whatever - maybe not to 30, but steadily gaining ground - that is a movement that is happening, and that that is a movement that is worrying. If you had told me, for example- people said in Germany the AFD only got 11%, but if you had told me 10 years ago that there would be A) A far-right party in parliament and B) The biggest opposition party in the country that would get 11% in the European elections, I would have been utterly speechless. So if you take the long view, something big is happening. What, exactly? I don't think we'll know until 10, 15 years from when we look back. I think Europe has sort of turned into a battleground; there is this battle of ideas, and I don't think it's decided, but I think liberals have to put up a fight. I don't see them putting up a fight right now, but they also have to be incredibly humble, because we are hearing from people that it's not functioning, it's not working. We've heard this in Poland from the nationalists, who are sort of saying ‘Democracy is doing great in Poland, thank you very much; it's doing great in Hungary. We're doing what the people want, we're doing what the people elected us for; we have a majority, you guys are just dreaming off majorities”. I think democracy in Germany is not looking so healthy; so I think it's important for the liberal democracy side to listen deeply and-
(01:05:13) MICHAEL BARBARO: Accept the scepticism.
(01:05:14) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Well, and analyse sort of where they may have gone wrong. This idea of a ‘liberal illiberalism’ comes to mind - this idea that maybe liberals haven't been tolerant enough of views that aren't their own - and then, of course, the bigger - and maybe the question that we found in every single country - is this issue of social injustice; just this question that the system isn't delivering. We've talked about democracy, but there's a broader question about our pairing of capitalism with liberal democracy and the social divide right now. There's big questions out there, and at the moment, I'm not seeing a whole lot of people grappling with them seriously; everybody's sort of defensive. What we found in Italy, for example, is that even in places where the League didn't do well, all the other candidates were just referring back to the League and Salvini. They were sort of arguing against it, but they weren't taking a- There's no language for the future, there's nobody selling a positive vision for the future to voters right now. Well, that's not quite true; you've got the Greens and you've got these few examples. And then you've got these unorthodox examples; people like (UNCLEAR), who probably have more leadership in them than a lot of the leading party leaders. Then people like Macron; where like I said earlier, a lot of people thought, “He's the guy; he will save Europe and he will save liberal democracy”, but he hasn't come up with the sort of innovation and then new ideas that tackle these deep issues, I don't think.
(01:06:53) MICHAEL BARBARO: I asked you before we did this interview where you see the greatest leadership right now, and I want you to tell everybody in the audience what you said. I said, “Where, in non nationalist governance, are you seeing great leadership?”; and I was referring to Europe, but you remember what you said?
(01:07:12) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I don’t.
(01:07:14) MICHAEL BARBARO: You said China.
(01:07:18) KATRIN BENNHOLD: It's true; that was a brilliant comment that I made earlier and I've already forgotten. But it's true; we're in this world where you've got these nationalists leaders- who are great at being leaders, by the way. They have the language; it's not a language of the future, it's more a language of the past, but that’s what people want to hear. They want that past, they want to preserve things, so that's Trump's language. That's the language of Salvini; it's the language of the people in Poland, of the Law And Justice Party. China, it's not a democracy, but it has a project for the future; it has a language for the future, knows where it's going and it's doing pretty well. So the question is: what do those defending liberal democracy in Europe, what language of the future are they going to find? This is what I'm not seeing right now.
(01:08:08) MICHAEL BARBARO: At the end of Daily episodes, I always sum things up; ‘So what you're saying is…’
(01:08:12) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I love this. You know the journalists motto; first simplify, then exaggerate.
(01:08:17) MICHAEL BARBARO: Yes, you're totally teeing me up. So what you're saying is, things in Europe are so messy that the model is a communist government in China? First, summarise, then exaggerate.
(01:08:32) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I love it, yes. I will just tell you that even Chancellor Merkel of Germany has admitted that when you challenge the Chinese government on human rights, and they shoot back “Well, we are lifting millions of people out of poverty on a pretty effective schedule; we are working for human rights”, even she said it's very hard to not agree with that. So again, I don't think the model is communism, by the way - I don't think it's basically authoritarian capitalism, that's what China's model is - I don't think that's the model anyone should strive for, but I think it's interesting to observe that the effectiveness of government there, the delivery is something that - certainly in our very messy and paralysed democracies right now - it's a threat to our vision of the future, sure, and we need to sort this out.
(01:09:39) MICHAEL BARBARO: We are going to pause - thank you all for this conversation - and take some questions from you, the audience, about Europe, China, the New York Times and The Daily.
(01:09:53) KATRIN BENNHOLD: And Michael; anything you want to ask?
(01:09:56) MICHAEL BARBARO: No. I want to thank you all for this discussion. We're going to bring Theo back onto the stage, and we have some microphones up in the balcony that I think you're all going to queue up to, if you'd like. And then we're going to have microphones being passed around the audience for questions; so why don't we start with lucky number two.
(01:10:18) THEO BALCOMB: Up there.
(01:10:19) MICHAEL BARBARO: Why don't we start with lucky number four? Hi!
(01:10:25) AUDIENCE: Thank you for joining us in London, first of all; and thank you for everything that you do, I think it's amazing work. My question is about anti-European sentiment; and I'm curious in your conversations with people, if you feel the number one driver is, maybe fear of a European sort of entity dominating policy and the lack of relationship? Or if it's fear of other people around Europe who are unfamiliar with immigrants, or potentially, economic reasons; what do you think is the number one driver?
(01:11:00) KATRIN BENNHOLD: So if I was to simplify and exaggerate, I would say it's a fear of losing a familiar way of life; and that actually sums up a lot of the things you touched on, and in different places different things are important. In Poland, we found that values was the sort of driver of anti-European sentiment. There was this idea that the EU was Unchristian; It was sort of somehow morally void, and it was now imposing it gender madness and LGBT craziness and all these rights and all this stuff on Poland, this Catholic country that wanted to be just a Catholic Christian country. That sort of idea of a Christian Europe felt very prominent there on the nationalist side. In Italy, migration was something that came up in every single conversation, even though it's no longer a red-hot crisis at all in terms of the numbers; but that sort of experience of 2015/16 - of being on the front line of this; being on the Mediterranean and seeing hundreds of thousands coming through - it's really stuck with people and it felt like it traumatised quite a lot of people. Again, there was a sense; ‘This is changing my town, my city, my familiar way of life.’
(01:12:20) And then, finally, I would say, in terms of the economic factors, there is a sense that Europe is sort of the face of capitalism. Europe is the face of globalisation to Europeans; it represents the free market that has allowed companies to take advantage of wage competition, and this idea of a race to the bottom. So the bitterness about a Europe that serves companies and not little people was voiced a lot; and again, this sort of conflation of this idea of liberal elites and European elites, that was used almost synonymously. So liberalism has become conflated very much with economic privilege; I don't know if that answers your question, but I feel it's a very complicated patchwork. But at the bottom of it all it's just people; it's the Loman moment, it's this idea of losing what you're used to, your familiar way of life.
(01:13:25) MICHAEL BARBARO: The numbers are throwing us. Two.
(01:13:32) AUDIENCE: Just a question that was asked a bit earlier, but I wondered whether you’d give more detail about- I appreciate that there's a lack of leadership on a liberal democracy side of the equation in Europe, but are there any interesting thinkers who may be in a leadership position but are putting forward interesting new ideas that maybe we should start to follow, listen to, read?
(01:14:00) KATRIN BENNHOLD: That's a great question; I think that in civil society there is a lot of leadership emerging now, and I mentioned Greta Thunberg, you've all heard of her. I think she has shown amazing leadership and has put the climate change issue on the map.
(01:14:16) In terms of politics, I personally like Timothy Garton Ash as a thinker; I think he's very smart on these subjects. One of the things he said that has really stuck with me is that this is sort of a time… So if you think of liberal democracy as having this sort of heyday - these thirty years of incredible expansion between 1974 and 2004; all the indicators show that the number of liberal democracies just expanded in the world. From the democratisation of Portugal all the way up to the Colour Revolution, it was just more democracy, more liberal democracy, (UNCLEAR); and there’s a sense of, it can only go in one direction and it was a democratic revolution. And then it plateaued, and ever since then it's been going in the other way; it's the counter-revolution, and what Timothy Garton Ash says whenever there's a revolution, there's a counter-revolution, so we shouldn't panic. In some ways this may also be an opportunity, because what we had during the Cold War is this competition between two systems; and in some ways, liberal democracy paired with capitalism was tamed by this standoff with communism, which claimed to be the social system which everybody jobs and so on. If you think back, our welfare states were going strong during those decades; and there has been, since the end of the Cold War, an end to that competition, and as a result deregulation and much less regard, perhaps, for some of these social justice issues. And now we have competition again; we've got a sort of competition between liberal democracy and - even though it's sort of an oxymoron - illiberal democracy. Viktor Orbán calls his system illiberal democracy; doesn't make sense, but it's sort of an illiberal modernity, a different system. I think that competition may just be the moment to focus minds, and it may just be a moment - and again, we won't know for a decade or so - to spark some of that leadership.
(01:16:35) MICHAEL BARBARO: So populism, nationalism, tames capitalism; and therefore makes a better liberal democracy, potentially?
(01:16:41) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Yeah, I think it focused minds at the time. I remember my mom in West Germany growing up in the eighties, always saying that the GDR - East Germany - was sort of the elephant in the room, during these union negotiations for wages and so on. The capitalists wanted to make sure that people in their system thought they were living in the better system, so it's interesting.
(01:17:07) AUDIENCE: My name is Emma (UNCLEAR); just expanding on that slightly, we had a movement in the late 80s which was Social Europe, where the European moved from being very much just an economic project to a social project. And that was also when the right-wing movement started to kick back - and it was felt at the time that that was very unusual, and they were the mad end of politics - and then they got further and they got further and then we Brexited, and now they run things. I'm interested in how you beat the money that is blinking together the extreme end of capitalism and the extreme end of the victims of capitalism; how you break that link. Because those to me seem to be the two groups most involved in being emotionally invested in Brexit.
(01:18:04) MICHAEL BARBARO: Great question.
(01:18:08) THEO BALCOMB: Well, there just is a big problem that there are two worlds; there are two whole societies in this country with just such an incredibly steep dropoff. The big surprise to me travelling around this country, is how many places there are where they just seemed to be in decline; where people's health is in decline, their prospects are in decline. Where they don't see a future, but they can't afford to leave because they can't afford to live in one of the places where there are jobs. I think this was allowed to develop to a very advanced point before Brexit was even on the table; so I think it's taken on the energy from this shearing off of one Britain from the other, and I think one way or the other, the left and the right and the centre have to somehow speak to those people. To be honest, I think the people that went for Brexit it were also the people that were damaged by austerity, so I think the right and the left end up overlapping a lot. One way or the other, their problems have to be addressed.
(01:19:26) KATRIN BENNHOLD: But the social Europe, actually as a slogan - something that comes up; in France, that came up a lot - is something that I think people would go for. They just didn't see any hope for it to happen. What's sort of interesting there, I talked about the absence of a language of the future. If you think - I don't know if you agree; we're all Europeans, sort of - but what unites, I always felt- The first time I left Europe was when I was 17 and I went to the United States, and I remember this was sort of- I went to a school there for a while, and I remember going to the doctor for the first time and being asked for a credit card; I remember I was like, ‘What?’, and a Swedish friend was with me and we were both like ‘What?’ This idea that you have to pay for health care; so in other words, when I left this continent for the first time, I realised that there's something that unites us in Europe beyond our borders that is very powerful. That is this idea of a welfare state and of solidarity; and it's sort of fading, unfortunately, but it's sort of been part, I would argue, of European identity. What's sort of sad in a way to see is that the parties that embodied this - and actually helped build these systems over 150 years - they are dying. Social democracy is dying in Europe right now; and to me again that's sort of tragic and sad, because I feel that and embodies a huge part of European identity, but maybe it's also an opportunity. Maybe this is the moment where somebody comes up with the recipe to embody this again; it feels late in the day, but there you might have a language for the future.
(01:21:22) Because people are looking for protection, and the Nationalists are saying, “We'll protect you from migrants, or we'll protect you from Brussels”; but if somebody came along and said, “We'll protect you from inequality, and we’ll protect your way of life in a fairer way and actually find some good solutions”, I think that could resonate.
(01:21:45) MICHAEL BARBARO: Shall we do Number One.
(01:21:49) AUDIENCE: My question relates what you just said: I'm a Global Health Master's student, and I went to a talk this year with a GP here in the NHS who had voted for Brexit from the left - who was harkening back to that early welfare state; the founding of the NHS; principles of social democracy - and wanting to get back there, feeling that that was what had been lost. And I wonder if you could comment on the irony of that; the longing for a cohesive, ‘We're in this together’ state, while also being part of a nationalist, separatist movement in a way; and maybe even in relation to president Trump's recent comment that he walked back - that I'm not convinced he actually walked back - about the NHS being on the table in a potential trade deal with the US; what that means for the irony of trying to leave something that was perceived as undemocratic in the EU, and landing in the lab of transnational corporations, which are the least democratic things in the world.
(01:23:05) MICHAEL BARBARO: Great question; we're going to do one more question after this, since I know we're getting to the end of our thing-
(01:23:08) THEO BALCOMB: Well it is notable that the NHS brought a screeching halt to what appeared to be almost universal welcome for Trump; and I do think when people are brought face to face with what it would mean to have a release of drug prices - basically we pay ten times, twenty times as much for the same drugs in America as Britons do for their drugs, because they bargain for mass purchases - so I think when people realise what it’s going to mean, I think that actually can move the dial a little bit.
(01:23:35) As far as social welfare, it's notable than in the Nordic countries a lot of the anti-immigrant parties are left-wing; and what they are all about is protecting the welfare state by shutting the doors, and making sure that people who are going to demand too much for the welfare state aren't allowed in the country. So I think that's a place where it goes from the right to the left pretty easily.
(01:23:59) MICHAEL BARBARO: We're going to do one more, because we've reached our magic hour of eight thirty. The eagerness of-
(01:24:10) THEO BALCOMB: Don’t fall!
(01:24:14) MICHAEL BARBARO: Make it count.
(01:24:15) AUDIENCE: I actually have two questions; one that's bothering me. So I'm German and I'm living in London, so I have a connection and I'm a deeply convinced European. One argument I'm always missing is how much the individual profits from the European Union. The only reason we have such a high level of consumer protection is actually because of the European Union; the amount of health care we have, the amount of protection against competition law is all due to the European Union. I think in all these nationalistic movements, there's a problem with marketing in the European Union. They don't explain to the individual enough how much they do, that's my perspective; that's kind of the question how you perceived that during your journey. The second one is, everyone is building out blocks now; so we have the United States that's blocking from the entire world, unfortunately; we have China, we have Russia. Where do we see ourselves in 30 years if we, as the European Union, are not sticking together? Because I feel in 30 years, Russia will not ring Luxembourg and ask for their opinion. Might be possibly they will also not ring Germany any more; but I'm just wondering, where's the future perspective? If we don't stick together now, what are we going to be as 28 European states?
(01:25:45) MICHAEL BARBARO: I like your question, because we haven't talked about the EU as an entity; is it just a terrible conveyor of its own message?
(01:25:53) KATRIN BENNHOLD: Roger Cohen, one of our great columnists, once described Europe as the world's most poorly marketed miracle, and I thought he nailed it. I think you're right; I think you probably still, if I may, speak from a position of privilege - as am I - and I felt humbled on my trip, because I realised my assumption- Because I was talking to these young people, I was like, “But you can just travel; you don't need to show your passport and you don't need to change your money, and you can go and study and you can do Erasmus.” They're not doing any of these things, because they're actually so limited beyond a certain income; it's not just destitute, it's actually sort of a lower working class. They have advantages, no doubt, on some level, but in terms of the concrete benefits that we see very regularly, they don't see them.
(01:26:50) AUDIENCE: My major advantages - I've discussed with many people, and no one has ever said that's wrong - is online shopping. We conclude valid contracts, everyone does; no matter what you vote or whether you actually vote, you conclude a valid contract on the Internet and you can just resign from that contract because of EU competition law. That is so amazing to me; and everyone every eighteen-year-old in France, Italy, can do that.
(01:27:26) KATRIN BENNHOLD: But if you have two euros to cook a meal for a family of five, that doesn't matter.
(01:27:31) AUDIENCE: But I think that a lot of people are confusing the European Union as a political concept with what the economy we opted for also does. The financial crisis in 2008.
(01:27:44) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I think you're right, and I think we can all agree that there have been a whole range of advantages that have been brought about by the European Union. The problem is that, on some of the big questions, it has disproportionately benefit benefited those with privilege and disproportionately those without privilege, and that needs addressing - and it's not just the EU, but it's democracy; it's all these big things. Just quickly on the block thing, you are absolutely right; this is something foremost on a lot of politicians’ minds. Angela Merkel, this is her big thing - ‘The world order is breaking apart. We can't rely on America anymore’ - and it's not just about Trump, structurally things are shifting.
(01:28:29) America is focused on China, transatlantic relations aren't going to go back to what they were; Europe needs to stand on its own feet and it needs to work together. If it wants to matter in the world. Russia - just as much as Trumps wants to destroy the European Union and all these far-right movements - are sort of little fifth columns for Russia; with the exception of some of the Eastern European ones, that don't Russia very much for obvious reasons. But the Italians, the French, even Orbán, they very closely cooperate with Russia; and I heard an interesting and scary story recently about China. Having invested very, very heavily in Greece on the back of this desperate austerity, that cost so much social and human pain in Greece after the financial crisis, or the economic crisis there; now it's sort of almost dictating how Greece votes on certain European issues. I don't want to overstate it, but there's a sort of sense that China might have a proxy vote in the EU via Greece. meanwhile, Russia is coming in and being very close to some of these far-right parties; so your point is absolutely right and it feels again, very late in the day to be seriously talking about this issue. I don't think it's too late, by the way; one guy - and this question was asked earlier, I feel I answered it fully about ‘Who you should follow’, the good ideas and so on. I'm going to come and talk to you at the reception - but there's one other guy I recommend, and I'll think of some woman too.
(01:30:01) Timothy Snyder is great; I’m sure there's stuff online, but he recently spoke in Oxford and he's spoken up a lot about Europe. He is much more upbeat and about the sort of the opportunity for Europe; to find that language of the future and have a plan, whether it's on a sort of social, democratic idea of redistribution - redistributing not just wealth, but also respect and attention - and also about just standing your ground. Having your vision for the future in a world where America is looking back - it's sort of a weird nostalgia/nationalism/something - and then there is China, which is ‘full power ahead’ with very much a vision for the future.
(01:30:57) So basically - let me sum this up, Mike -
(01:31:00) MICHAEL BARBARO: Thank you.
(01:31:02) KATRIN BENNHOLD: I think there's a big political space up for grabs. The simple fact that Europeans don't want to leave the EU, but they really don't like it, shows this is up for grabs, this space. And the jury's still out, but I think the next few years will be pretty decisive.
(01:31:23) MICHAEL BARBARO: And I think the next five days of The Daily are going to tell a remarkable story. I think you're getting a little bit of a sense of the kind of talent that we're working with here. I want to thank you all for coming out; I want to thank you for supporting and listening to The Daily, and supporting and hopefully subscribing to the New York Times; and for giving us your time, your empathy and your intelligence. We are so, so grateful. So thank you all very much- and it wouldn't be proper if I didn't sign off. I’m Michael Barbaro , I will see you on Monday.
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